Arts & Culture

Best New Books for June 2019

Great summer reads for Southerners—bold novels to take to the beach, a peachy keen cookbook, and one powerful ode to grace
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Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness, by Jennifer Berry Hawes

“Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history—we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history,” the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney once said. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes’s new book is dedicated to Pinckney and the eight other Emanuel AME Church congregants who were murdered at their bible study in 2015. But Grace Will Lead Us Home is more than a recounting of the crime and its aftermath—building on her connections to the family members of those who were killed, Hawes reflects on the power of anger, pain, and forgiveness in this moving and personal look at a group of people whose legacies are shaping today’s South.

Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America, by Jim Auchmutey

There have been plenty of drool-worthy recent books about barbecue. But this read digs back in a way Southerners will appreciate, diving from Native American live-fire traditions to smoked meats’ Civil War connections, all the way to today’s pits. See aspects of the book in real life—the author was the consulting curator for the Barbecue Nation exhibition currently on view at the Atlanta History Center.

Call Your Daughter Home: A Novel, by Deb Spera

Most of Louisville, Kentucky, native Deb Spera’s career has been in television—she was the executive producer of Army Wives and Criminal Minds. But between productions, she found time to write, including this Good Dog column for G&G, and now this full-of-heart debut novel. In Call Your Daughter Home, Spera explores the lives of three very different women who all call one small South Carolina town home. Set against a struggling farming community in 1924, the story weaves together their voices to explore the bonds between mothers and daughters.

City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert

This big juicy delight of a book is summer reading at its finest—there’s a lovable narrator finding her way in life among a cast of characters in the 1940s theater world of New York City, plenty of drama, and the powerful writing of Elizabeth Gilbert, known for her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and returning to fiction again after 2013’s heralded The Signature of All Things.

Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation, by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

Most of us would have paid more attention in history class had the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham led the discussion with pop-in musical asides from superstar Tim McGraw. That powerhouse team comes together for Songs of America, an engaging read about patriotic songs, protest anthems, and the music that helped make the United States what it is. They’re also embarking on a short music-and-reading tour with stops in Charleston, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh.

The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration, by Chris Smith

This book, which covers everything you never knew you wanted to know about okra, “is a love song long overdue,” writes the James Beard Award-winning food writer Michael W. Twitty in the foreword. Author Chris Smith, a self-named “expert okra enthusiast” who is a manager at Sow True Seed in Asheville, guides readers through the history of the oft-maligned vegetable. He also shares a few recipes to surprise even the leery, including a spicy Ethiopian okra dish from chef Marcus Samuelsson.

In West Mills, by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

At the center of this impressive debut novel, set in a small black community in North Carolina in the 1940s, is an outsider—a freethinking, rough-around-the-edges woman named Azelea “Knot” Centre, who through the course of the story is shaped by place and a surprising, enduring friendship with her neighbor.

The Peach Truck Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for All Things Peach, by Stephen K. Rose and Jessica N. Rose

Like many great stories in the South, this one involves an old truck—a 1964 Jeep Gladiator from which Stephen and Jessica Rose got their start selling fresh peaches throughout Nashville. A huge social media following later, the Roses have released their first cookbook. It’s a primer on slipping peaches into everything: fried catfish with peach salsa; white pizza with pancetta and peaches; peach milkshakes; peach-infused bourbon; and this baked oatmeal with berries and peaches.

We Are La Cocina, by multiple authors, photographs by Eric Wolfinger

A San Francisco-based nonprofit called La Cocina helps home cooks, especially women from immigrant communities, turn their passions into businesses. In the group’s first cookbook, more than fifty people who came through the program share their recipes—including North Carolina native Stephanie Field’s recipe for bourbon buttermilk grits pie. “When I was growing up, buttermilk was a staple,” in her family’s kitchens, writes Fields in her recipe’s notes. “All of the old folks would crumble fried cornbread into a tall glass of ice-cold buttermilk, salt the top, and eat it with a spoon.” The dish she created pays homage to that memory.

The Crowded Hour: Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and the Dawn of the American Century, by Clay Risen

Let the author and historian Clay Risen (who also writes eloquently on bourbon and rye), be your guide to a fascinating and sometimes forgotten part of American history—when Theodore Roosevelt led the volunteer cavalry unit called the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and marked a turning point for the country and for the future president. Roosevelt recalled of the charge in the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba in 1898, “The instant I received the order, I sprang on my horse and then my ‘crowded hour’ began.” That “crowded hour” set him on his path to pursuing the presidency.

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus, by Ryan Jacobs

We predict this deeply reported romp through the dark side of expensive fungus will be a hit with true crime lovers and future dining companions who can’t help but tell the stories behind whatever food is being served. In this case, earthy truffles, that luxury ingredient, and the secretive, fraudulent, and theft-laden underworld the taste for them has spawned.

Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City, by Witold Rybczynski

While many books about the architecture of Charleston focus on its past, this fascinating book is firmly planted in the modern-day city and its current crew of tastemakers, including the designers George Holt and Andrew Gould, who are inspired by Byzantine architecture. Through interviews and interesting historical context, the author explains the way historians, architects, new homeowners, and even one bluegrass mandolin player continue to guide Charleston’s charm.